ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- A memorial service for Wilma June Nissen, the Jane Doe identified in February after 27 years, was well attended on Saturday afternoon -- the first time a formal funeral or memorial took place after the unidentified woman was found dead all those years ago.
Attending the service were Nissen's foster parents, Maxine and Marshall Holte, who traveled from Idaho to pay their respects to the child they had raised as their own for two years in Nissen's youth.
Also in attendance was Starla Patterson, a woman who has been searching for Nissen for several years on behalf of Nissen's daughter.
"Here we have two mysteries," the Rev. Jeff Schleisman said during the service. "The mystery of Wilma's death and the mystery of life."
During the service, Lyon County Sheriff Blythe Bloemendaal welcomed the Holtes and Patterson to northwest Iowa and Rock Rapids.
"We are all here for you," he said. "That you are here is a sign of your dedication and love."
Bloemendaal gave the Holtes, Patterson and former Lyon County Sheriff Craig Vinson a rose to place on Nissne's grave and asked them each to let loose a white balloon.
Schleisman praised Bloemendaal's efforts in identifying Nissen and investigating the homicide.
"All the hard work and the many years of investigating," Schleisman said, "you know justice will come to this person."
Nissen's daughter, Krissi Haas, did not attend the ceremony, but asked Bloemendaal to convey her apologies.
"She has a lot of turmoil in her life," he said. "She tells me she'll come here on her own accord and make a visit to her mother's grave."
After the service, a woman approached Bloemendaal and shook his hand.
"Sheriff, we have a Jane Doe in the town I live in," she said. "I wish we had someone like you."